About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

30 December 2015

De Hoop

I tried to go to De Hoop just over 5 years ago, and while J and I (with J's wife K) managed to get to Bedasdorp; for various reasons we didn't actually manage to make it to De Hoop.

From all accounts from the staff, De Hoop is not well known - and many of the patrons are actually regulars. One lady was staying for 7 days, and this was her 4th consecutive visit over Christmas. She was also excited that she had already secured a spot for 2016.

And De Hoop is a gem - there is off course the unique landscape and environment, but it is the absolutely amazing staff that makes De Hoop such an attractive destination. Most are locals - they have grown up around the area; and some can trace multiple generations in the area. They are very friendly and very approachable - hospitality at its best. And many of the waiters/hosts double up as guides with amazing knowledge of the environment. There seems to be a concerted effort in skills training based on the stories of their experiences but as one guide mentioned - it is not only the knowledge; it is how well they can interact with the guests that really define how successful they are. 

Broadly, De Hoop has three environments - fynbos hills, the coast and a "vlei" (translates to a marsh, but more lake/estuary). There is not much variety in terms of large animal life in the fynbos - lots of eland and bontebok, with some cape mountain zebra and ostriches. De Hoop is a marine sanctuary, and so whale season leads to frequent sightings of whales and their calves; and the rock pools are teaming with actuatic life. The bird life is amazing - blue cranes, fish eagles and oyster catchers - there is a lot of variety to be seen (apparently 260 species in total).

The dunes are dramatic, the beaches are pristine; and the staff are very hospitable. I do want to come back for the whale trail hiking trail; or perhaps for the whale season. While I doubt I will make it an annual pilgrimage, I can certainly see what the attraction is.

29 December 2015


It has been 5 years since I was last at the southernmost point in Africa; and the most noticeable change has been how the towns of Struisbaai and L'Agulhas has grown. There are now houses and shops everywhere - and a sleepy town has been transformed.

28 December 2015


At the beginning of the year (or was it the end of last year?), I came across a book review of Harvard philosophy professor Sandel's book - Justice. The book captures the key philosophical background discussion points that define modern legal systems, discussing the modern political flash points - abortion, gay marriage and affirmative action; and many more of the underlying principles. Ultimately, it tries to identify the very basic, but very contentious and murky question of "what is just"?

The book itself is based on a very popular course given at Harvard; and now available for free at edX. The course covers 24, half hour lectures, approx 20 "poll questions" and quite a few readings etc. Unlike many other edX courses I have done, the lectures are direct recordings of lectures given at a cavernous lecture theatre with a lot of class participation and discussion. While the book covers a lot more topics (e.g. canibalism and euthanasia), I found the edX course to be more accessible and easier to digest. 

While the course itself is a philosophy course, I think it should really be considered as an essential course for everyone. As covered in the course, Aristotle considered man's participation and contribution to the "polis" as the key contribution to virtue, and thus the ultimate purpose of life. 

While modern (wo)man's participation in the polis may be reduced only to voting and political rallies (including #___mustfall marches); this is the the type of course that every (wo)man needs to understand the world. More than any other philosophy and intellectual discourse, I found the course and discussions to really give me perspective on how different people understand the concept of justice; and thus take their positions. It uncovers the motivations behind those who consider government should be limited and those who consider a nanny state to be ideal; those who don't consider the sins of our forefathers matter and those that call for slavery and colonial restitution. It is more than political pandering and ultimately for our own democracy and political world to prosper, people need to at least identify and understand the underlying philosophies - if nothing else to debate their inconsistencies. 

The course is available online, for free, at edX until 15 January 2016. I highly recommend it.

26 December 2015

Jacob's Ladder

While not the stairway to heaven, Jacob's Ladder is one of the many staircases linking Main Road and Boyes Drive. Located near the St James station, the staircase is deceptively steep - as much of it is hidden in the foliage from the gardens. The views of false bay are well worth the climb; and certainly less populated than Main Road. 

25 December 2015

The SA National Gallery

It has been years since I last went to the SA National Gallery; and although M and I always seem to intend going, we never end up going for various reasons. At least , this year we got over that hurdle.

The gallery has a set of permanent exhibits together with a number of featured exhibitions. The permanent exhibitions seem to be organized in a few themes, and the sculptures - in my opinion - are the highlights. Of the featured, but temporary exhibitions, the landscape work of Moses Tladi, is amazing - especially those of a much rural Gauteng which has been transformed to an urban jungle. Except for the Tladi exhibition, there was very little with regards to explanation of the pieces or wider discussion on the pieces. Apart from that, the gallery is an excellent stop in Cape Town's tourist circuit.

Besides the Butcher Boys, three more recent sculptures stood out for me. Congolese artist, Maurice Mbiyaki's "E-Mukishi" transforms computer keyboards and mice into a threatening dark menace. In the current context of cyber threats, the sculpture is the physical manifestation of a very real threat to modern society. There is no official interpretation, but it is the work that spoke to me the most.

Mary Sibande's "The Reign" takes a very different take on the horse rider sculpture that is fairly common across western culture. It is colourful, and a refreshing take. The work is part of a wider series but this is an apt installation to showcase the power of her work.

The last one, is Paul Thavhana's "Nowa Ya Tsireldzo - Snake as Protector"; a humongous wooden sculpture of a smiling cobra.  I couldn't find anything on the Internet about the piece or the artist, so I am not sure if it is a single piece of wood (as it seems to be) - but it is amazing piece regardless.

24 December 2015

Dinosaurs at Kirstenbosch

Although I have been to Kirstenbosch a number of times, it has always been for anything but the gardens themselves - a few concerts, a party or at the tail end of a hike. M wanted to visit the fragrance garden, and thus for the first time I actually visited the garden for its own sake.

Being the height of summer, there weren't a lot of flowers - but the garden is still very scenic, and peaceful. Aside from an owl (which blended in to the trees remarkably well), the highlight for me was the dinosaurs in the cycad garden. 

There was the majestic, in the form of a T-Rex and a few other large ones; but it is the small ones hidden in corners that made me smile - and it's a fun addition to the gardens.

19 December 2015

Constantia Nek to the Dams

It has been more than a decade since I had gone up all the way up the trail at Constantia Nek. The weather started off as perfect for hiking - warm (but not hot), cloudy with a light breeze. By the time we got to the top, it was foggy, cold, with a steady drizzle. So, unfortunately there were no amazing views of the bay and Cape Flats or of the dams. We took refuge at a small museum chronicling the building of the dams, including a steam engine, an ironsmith's forge and a few other bits and pieces; to wait out the drizzle before heading back. 

Poor weather aside, it's a good hike with a lot less people - need to do it again on a day without the tablecloth.

17 December 2015

Michaelis' Graduate Exhibition

I last went to an exhibition at the UCT's Michaelis School of Fine Arts when I was still at UCT. But I keep getting exhibition invites, and off course not showing up. Since I am in Cape Town for a while this month, I decided to see the sprawling exhibition of the graduate class, housed in 6 buildings of the Hiddingh Campus.

Most of the work seems to be quite self indulgent, an air of self importance; that probably comes from the fact that the artwork presented is also marked for the student's marks. But there are some amazing gems - works that stand on their own, or makes one think.

For me, the highlight was the Ubulungiswa/Justice Collaboration - a multi media installation encompassing a number of students, exploring topical themes of 2015 - xenophobia and the RhodesMustFall/FeesMustFall movements. Encompassing video, performance art, costumes and ohotography, it was novel, interesting and thought provoking.

Equally thought provoking was Simphiwe Ndzube's installations exploring migrancy through discarded clothing. The installation was a harsh visual representation of the migrant world - especially given 2015's various stories on migrants.

There are many more interesting works - and the showcase is very diverse; and will caters for almost every type of art work. And maybe if you like something, you can get it for a bargain - you know, before they become famous :)

08 December 2015

Movie: Spectre

Daniel Craig has been widely quoted that he doesn't wish to play Bond again; and Spectre does feel like a farewell. Not only does Spectre manage to tie together a number of previous bond films' plot lines; Bond himself comes across as slightly jaded by the world he has to constantly save - and ironically, the entire spying apparatus comes under strong criticism.

Spectre opens with one of the best (if not the best) opening sequences for a Bond film, and generally stays true to the James Bond formula of over-the-top villains, amazing car chases, beautiful women, beautiful locations and great action sequences. However, in some ways it's also overtly political - with national, unrestricted surveillance and more importantly how such a system could be misused as one of the core plot points. In the age of technology, the movie makes a strong case for human spies instead of digital spies.

I don't think it was as great as Skyfall; but it still has a lot going for it.

22 November 2015

Movie: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

The action packed finale to the Hunger Games series, delivers a fitting closure to the series. The movie is itself very close to the proceedings of the book; although the final scenes feel a bit less traumatic and jaded compared to the book. It has everything that one needs from a finale - great action scenes; death of a few important characters (but not the real heroes); a victorious hero and something of a conclusion.

18 November 2015

Movie: Crimson Peak

M loves horror movies, so she tries to drag me along as soon as there is something interesting.  Guillermo del Toro's latest offering is the model Gothic novel - period setting love story, with a cruel, mysterious underbelly. As a line in the book - this is not a ghost story; but rather a story with ghosts in it. The creepiness comes; not from the ghosts (although, in typical Guillermo del Toro style; they are fantastic creations) - but rather the dilapidated house and the general environment. 

Crimson Peak's plot is wooden and fairly predictable (but then it is an homage to a genre); the dialogue is rather mundane at times - but that can be all overlooked by the sumptuous set and colour contrasts - the bright red clay, seeping out on the white snow in the grey skies of England. Guillermo del Toro's offerings have a lot of style; and this is certainly one of them.

08 November 2015


Conrad Koch's new one man show was meant to finish off last night - but has been extended by a few shows at the Jo'burg Theatre. The theme is, as it has been for a while with Conrad Koch's shows, South African identity - and it is a lot more than just Chester Missing - although Chester (and his disguises) are definitely the highlights of the show. There is also a human ventriloquism piece at the end, where two audience members are asked to wear some masks and we get an absolutely amazing ventriloquist performance. 

Chester Missing's political commentary, is as ever, biting and current - and there were no boundaries for criticism - from the ANC and the South African government, to the DA, EFF and Agang - there was not much that was left out. Of the puppets, Ronnie the Monster was the weakest link; but a show definitely worth attending.

04 November 2015

Movie: The Martian

The Martian takes Robinson Crusoe to a new level; and the whole "last person left on the planet" bit too. But unlike Robinson Crusoe who has no communications back home; Matt Damon's Mark Whatney manages to rig up an old rover; and thus make his life a lot better and easier. So, instead of a showcase on the descent to madness; it becomes a tale of scientific ingenuity and off course the inevitable rescue mission to end all rescue missions. 

It is not as spectacular as gravity - but the individual performances are as good. The script and story is not as wild as Interstellar; but it's still as good. It was more practical; more feel good and something that highlighted both the dangers and need for space travel.

30 October 2015

JPO and KZNPO's Joint Concert

The newly formed collaboration between the the JPO and the KZNPO got off to a great start with a joint concert featuring both orchestras; in a fairly packed Linder Auditorium (and the stage was pretty packed also). After some short speeches, Junnan Sun, the principal clarinetist of the KZNPO, regaled the audience with a masterful performance of the Mozart's Clarinet Concerto. It was a pleasant change in concerto instruments (given that most performances usually showcase the violin or the piano); and it was a great showcase of collaboration.

After the break, the full orchestras were used to show case Mahler's Symphony No 5 - a symphony that would be otherwise quite difficult for either orchestra to perform on their own; and the sound of such a large orchestra was in itself amazing. I had not heard the symphony in its entirety before; and I absolutely loved the first 4 movements - each with its own emotion/tone; something akin to a tale being told. The famous 4th movement was amazing, and certainly a performance to remember. And after those movements, the final movement was disappointing - overly dramatic, and felt very different to the rest - but at least there was the 4th to savour over.

22 October 2015


I was quite shocked with a newspaper table that showed the annual fees of various universities. Shocked, because the fees for UCT were over 3 times that of what it was 15 years ago when I entered university. I can't think of any other good that has had such a large multiplier - in fact 15 years ago, my total costs (food, accommodation, tuition) was less than the current fees. 

Mass education is one of the only proven paths to achieving economic growth; and given South Africa's economic situation; it is a no-brainer to enable education for as many people as possible. Complaints of financial exclusion, high fees were prevalent 15 years ago - but it was a low rumble. The fact that the fees have shot up; and nothing has been addressed regarding fees says it all. In this respect, Floyd Shivambu's article on education funding is quite enlightening.

The favourite tactic with the university of non paying students is to deny graduation until the fees are settled. Thus, a graduate with perfectly usable skills is not allowed to actually make use of their degree, to earn the money, to pay their outstanding fees. It's a circle of stupidity.

And the exclusion and its impact is fairly easy to see. In my latter years at UCT, I taught in the SHAWCO community outreach programme. There, some of the brightest kids in Khayalitsha were given free extra lessons - in my case IT. From a base of about 3000 students, there were a total around 90 students that went through this program. Every one of the students I interacted with, expressed a love for maths and science; there was almost no truancy - they were eager to learn. Yet, based on student numbers I have seen since; almost none of them ever made it to university. I doubt that was because they were not good enough - it is highly likely they couldn't afford it. And it is not only the fees - there is food, lodging, transport and off course books and equipment. 

There is off course a digital revolution that is also sweeping through education. In the past 9 months; I have completed (or currently taking) courses in finance, astro-physics, law, philosophy, technology and culture via edX. I have paid for one of those course - but the rest have been free. And they have been from some of the top researchers (including a Nobel laureate) and universities  such as Harvard, MIT and Cambridge. 

Sure, I am not doing these courses for degrees - just because I am interested in the topics themselves. But maybe MOOCs are the platform to get the best teaching out to everyone. Raspberry Pi's make cheap computers; we now have ever improving communication technologies. Perhaps the answer to the fee crisis is to make education in South Africa more available through technology. Instead of bringing students to the campus; take the teaching to the communities. 

Perhaps what we really need is a completely different way of thinking on how to educate.

30 September 2015

Movie: Roger Walters The Wall

M absolutely loves "The Wall", so the one off movie screening of Roger Walters The Wall, was off course a must see event! It is primarily a concert movie - showcasing the concert performance of The Wall, toured by Roger Walters in the recent past. In between, there is a more personal travelogue of Roger Walters (sometimes with family and bandmates) visiting the graves of his grand-father (killed in WW1) and father (killed in WW2).

The concert itself is amazing - even if it was only for the absolutely amazing effects. A massive wall gets built over the course of the concert - until the entire performance ends up being behind the wall. Together with amazing video displays - this must have been an amazing spectacle live.

As an anti-war protest - I am not sure it really works. While the video displays showed various victims of war - from soldiers to freedom fighters to civilians (and all these without recent police killing victims or Syrian  refugees) - this is still a concert; so what you end up with is cheering and applause in the background. 

So, it feels like a massive disconnect. The travelogue is indulgent - but does not always make sense. And most of all, I don't know why it had to be a special screening event.

20 September 2015

Fighting Crime with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

The Freakonomics podcast has a very interesting, two part episode on the use of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) in fighting crime. Based on three, widely different case studies - fighting crime in in the inner city gangs of Chicago, rehabilitation of child soldiers in Liberia and lower risk domestic abuse cases in the UK; the podcasts certainly make a compelling case. In all three cases, participants are put through a CBT course with support and mentoring; and the results are quite impressive - an average of about 40% reduction across the use cases in the best cases.

Given South Africa's similarities to some of the case studies, I wonder if anyone has thought about using the same approach? The stories are certainly compelling.

13 September 2015

Movie: Mr Holmes

There has been a rash of Sherlock Holmes adaptations in the recent past - from the action hero, to the modern adaptation to the faithful reproductions. In this crowded space, Mr Holmes is different - an aged, retired Sherlock Holmes tries to reconstruct his final case that led him to retirement - but his failing memory and body doesn't help his cause. In between the case recollection, there is a small side story about a Japanese man helping him with "medicinal" assistance to improving his memory and a great story about his widowed housekeeper and her young son; and more importantly the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and the son.

The highlight is undoubtedly the acting - of both Sir Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes and of Milo Parker as the inquisitive young boy. The performance of Ian McKellen as a 90 odd year man, losing his memory and for that matter other physical abilities was just astounding - especially given his rather superhero performances in the X-Men series and Lord of the Rings. The plot is rather mundane, there is not much in the mystery to be honest (and it somewhat goes against Conan Doyle's characterisation) - but the acting is a joy to watch.

Animal Farm - The Stage Production

I first read Animal Farm in high school, before really knowing its reputation (it was not school work, although I read it after 1984, which was). The story of struggle, achieving a free and equitable society, which then collapses is perhaps more pertinent than ever - in South Africa and elsewhere.

Market Theatre recently concluded an incredible stage adaptation of Animal Farm, with some South African references (e.g. the installation of a firepool) and wider African references (e.g. Napoleon dressing up as Mobuto Sese Seko). 

The highlight was certainly the incredible acting performances from the entire cast. Each of the actors took on multiple roles, but each role was perfectly cast and executed. M called the performance the best we had seen; and it was not just the plot line. There was something in the performance that is difficult to explain; but it was impressive and just kept the audience spellbound. 

It's a performance that deserves to be seen, again and again.

05 September 2015

JPO in concert with Joshua Bell

At the last Joshua Bell concert, the hall was overflowing. This time around, it was a near capacity crowd - but not full. The ticket prices were very high - so it was not that surprising. The JPO is finally out of business rescue (resulting mostly from creditors writing off their debts), and the concert also launched a new era, with a close partnership with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, resulting in a joint CEO of Bongani Tembe. Hopefully, this concert was a good start toward a successful future.

Like the last Joshua Bell concert, this one also started with Weber's Der Freischütz Overture. It starts slowly, but slowly builds up tempo and instruments before a big flourish at the end. It's a fun piece to start off a concert. The symphony concert for the evening was Tchaikovsky's Symphony No 2. I love the final movement of this piece; and find it quite different to the previous 3 movements - almost as if it is not even part of the same work. While the middle two movements are slow (and quite boring in my opinion), the final movement is energetic, frantic and lots of fun.

Joshua Bell's performance was Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto; a virtuoso piece that brought the audience to a standing ovation. It was a mesmerising performance, and was definitely worth the ticket price.

16 August 2015

Buskaid 2015

This year's annual Buskaid concert was a couple of weeks earlier than usual, but there was still an almost capacity audience at the Linder Auditorium. 

The program started with Rameau (sort of a Buskaid tradition) - Overture to Pigmailion and Dances from Zaïs. At least in South Africa, Buskaid seems to be the only ensemble that plays a selection of composers outside the greats (Beethoven, Mozart etc.) - and the Rameau is an example of that. I can't say I love the style - but it is nevertheless enjoyable and different.

My personal favorite was Sibelius' Impromptu for String Orchetra. It is an amazing piece - slow and moody at the start and end, sandwiching a very energetic middle. It was an amazing contrast to the Rameau; and the performance was mesmerising. In fact, I went and found a performance on Apple Music to listen to while completing this post!

Camille Saint-Sans' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso is played quite often on Classic FM, but this was the first time I have heard it live. It is a virtuoso piece, and Simiso Radebe's solo performance brought the audience to its feet. A perfect follow up to the amazing Sibelius.

The last performance before the interval highlighted another great difference between Buskaid and other classical ensembles. I had not heard Luigi Boccherini's Night Music of the Streets of Madrid before - but the ensemble took it further; by having a coordinated dance performance while playing the music. It was fun to watch, it was fun to see and gave a real feel for what the music was trying to achieve - something Boccherini himself was unsure could be achieved.

The second half started off with Khachaturian's Waltz from Masquerade, before going through to three movie themes - Theme from Age of Innocence, Theme from Cinema Paradiso (soloist Kabelo Monnathebe) and Tango Por Una Cabenza (probably best known for as the tango in Scent of a woman, soloist Simiso Radebe). 

As with all Buskaid performances, the movie themes indicated a transition to the kwela, gospel and Afropop - to bring the evening to a close. Once again, Buskaid delivered a standout performance. 

12 August 2015

The Test Kitchen

The Test Kitchen has been the No 1 ranked restaurant in South Africa for a few years now (and also has significant global attention). Located at The Old Biscuit Mill in Cape Town, the restaurant itself is rather relaxed; with an open kitchen where the patrons can see the chefs working their magic. The restaurant has a long waiting list - I booked in March for an August date - and it was definitely worth the wait.

We had the tasting menu, lasting approximately 3 hours. The food was perhaps a bit too slow paced - but otherwise the service was excellent. However, I would not say that it was my best fine dining experience. A corporate dinner at the 2-Michellin starred Dolder Grand in Zurich was amazing in its oppulence, setting and off course its food and I would rate Hartford House as the best fine dining experience (despite its colonial setting). That said, the Springbok Rose (main course at Test Kitchen on Saturday) is probably the best dish I have had.

Overall, the Test Kitchen is definitely worth getting a reservation for. The prices are fairly reasonable (although the waiting time should definitely be used to save up). However, I don't know if I would specifically plan another trip around going to the Test Kitchen (although the past weekend was a long weekend, hence I targeted this specific date). It's a great experience - but not necessarily a repeat one.

The bread was fresh out of the oven - with an interesting variety. The pie like one was definitely the most praised.

The first appetiser

The second appetiser - Tuna and Cabbage 3 ways - maybe the best cabbage dish I have ever had?

The pickled fish starter was amazing - my second favourite of the day. Layered with a variety of fish, it was somewhat like a sashimi course.

My second course was guinea fowl and foie gras. I wasn't as enthusiastic as the rest of the table; who raved about the scallop and mirin tea (below).

The third course was the choice between the line fish and the pork belly. The pork belly was amazing.

There was a variety in the main courses. The Springbok Rose (above), was by far my best dish of the day - in terms of both food and presentation. M raved about the parsnips in the vegetarian mains although the lamb (below) didn't get too many wild adulations.

The meal concluded with two deserts - Tropical (above) had a fruity theme, while the Milk Stout Sponge was more cake and pastry. They were both great tasting deserts - but I found both to be quite disjointed, especially the Milk Stout Sponge. 

03 August 2015

Marikana - The Musical

M and I had completely opposite reactions to the multi-award winning Marikana - The Musical, now on at the State Theatre until mid-August. I saw the miner's song and dance akin to a war dance, while M saw it as positioning the miners as an arrogant bunch of thugs. I found the lyrics and positioning to confront the socio-economic dynamics, while M saw it as a reflection of the miners committing to their own demise. Both of us contrasted the performance to Rezad Desai's Miners Shot Down, which focused quite a bit on the political machinations around the tragedy - something the musical doesn't really focus on; and I think the documentary will remain the definitive voice on the tragedy. Neither of us read any reviews before going to the performance, and there a few criticims (esp with regards to attribution of cause) - but we did both agree that the performance itself was amazing. 

The set design was genius - the hill serving as both the musician cage and the prop. The music traversed various styles; and the vocalists were great. The translations of various vernacular phrases was patchy (some of it was projected) but there was enough English around to keep the story in line. And the acting was equally impressive - regardless of the viewpoint of the interpretation.

I think I convinced M on my interpretation -  but I suppose it is to be expected that different people will interpret art differently. As long as it is accepted that the musical itself is not a full portrayal of the events; I think it will be fine. Like the last two scenes - first by the widows followed by a father - the musical is also an eulogy that reminds all of the socio-economic factors that hold down our fraught labour relations. 

This is an amazing performance that needs to be seen by all, and at R100 a ticket, the musical is very accessible.

31 July 2015

Art of the Brick

It took quite a few months to convince M that we should go see The Art of the Brick - an exhibition of artwork by Nathan Sawaya, made of Lego bricks - and we were both glad to have finally gone. There are some amazing sculptures - both replicas of famous works and original works. Almost all the works are made from classic lego pieces (of differing colours off course); which really showcases the versatality of the toy. The show has been extended by a few days - if you haven't gone; go.

26 July 2015

New Bike

I bought my old bike 10 years ago. Back then it was a good bike for the price - it had front shocks (yes that was a novel feature) - but most of the components and features are significantly outdated today (such as v-brakes). Since I restarted cycling seriously 2 and a bit years ago, I have been itching to get a new one. Once MN landed one of the only Sliverback Slade 1s in the country a few weeks back; I decided to get one too.

The Slade 1 has medium range components (Shimano XT, Rock Shox Gold) and an amazingly light frame. I decided to get cleats also, and it has taken me a while to get acclimatised to cycling with the front of your foot. And it is a joy to ride - especially uphill! I took it on my current circuit at Groenkloof and made good time for a first ride - 8 minutes up on the previous ride, and 0.8 km/h faster. Once I get used to bike, I expect even better times and speed.

Lastly, Anton from Summit Cycles has provided great service in the process - from measuring before order, to setting up the bike optimally. Looking for a bike in Northern Jo'burg - go check out Summit Cycles.

19 July 2015

Coffee and Chocolate Expo

Expos can be a hit and miss affair, and IMO it depends on the combination of exhibitors, activities and the uniqueness of the combination. This weekend's Coffee and Chocolate Expo was largely a miss.

For R100 entry, you didn't get much. Yes, there was a band playing, but it was outside and cold; so not much going there. The exhibitors were largely the same that you find around Jo'burg - either commercial chains such as Vida and Seattle Coffee or those that frequent weekend markets. There were some gems in the rough; but overall it wasn't worth it.

28 June 2015

Movie: Jurassic World

20 years ago, Jurassic Park was a ground breaking movie - not only the visual effects but the scary impact of genetic engineering taken to the limit. Jurassic World, pays quite a bit of homage to this past; and introduces a dinosaur that is "bigger, scarier and cooler" - made by genetically splicing a number of species of modern and ancient species - that is both dangerous and intelligent. It is not groundbreaking like Jurassic Park, and the concept is more like a zoo gone mad than a natural park (as anyone who has been to a safari can attest); but it is still fun. Throw in some family drama, regurgitate some plot lines from the earlier movies, and even better special effects - and you have a highly entertaining movie; despite the poor script.

16 June 2015

Xiaomi Mi Band - The Long Usage Review

There are two amazing features of Xiaomi's Mi Band - it's price of 99 HKD and its battery life of approximately 180 days.I bought mine on my first day in Hong Kong (on 2 March); and have worn it for most of the time since. The band is comfortable, although I would have preferred a band that stretches a bit more. I do take it off before showering - so I can't vouch for its water-wear.

The band has two major functions - step counting (as the general activity monitoring) and sleep monitoring. The step counter, at least when taking steps, is quite accurate. I actually tested in on the 4 odd Km walk around the top of Victoria Peak, and the distance counter was spot on. I am not sure how it works for other activities though - the reading during my bike rides seem a bit low for example.

The sleep counter has been more iffy - it largely gets it right; but I find that it sometimes gets waking up times wrong - especially if I have hit the snooze button a few times :) I do like the view of "deep sleep" and "light sleep"; but can't really vouch for its accuracy! There have been some other weird bugs - like recording sleep activity when I was not sleeping (e.g. watching a movie or reading a book for a long period of time) or not recording sleep activity during a short nap in the afternoon. Since I don't do either of those type of activities frequently, I have only noted a few examples of this occurring.

The software does integrate to Apple Health - though this aspect has been quite buggy in a few different ways:
  • Apple Health and Mi Band double counts. If I have my iPhone in my pocket, and walk - Apple Health counts both those steps and those recorded by the band; and instead of correlating it adds these up.
  • The sleep tracker in Mi Band is editable (to record more accurately waking time at least). However, edits do not seem to feed through to Apple Health.
  • The sleep tracker in Apple Health does not account for "deep sleep" and "light sleep"

When I was in Hong Kong, the Mi Band was great to keep track of how much I actually walked in the city; and there has been a great contrast in the drop off in walking since then. I often miss the 8000 steps default target during the work days -  although this does depend on which office I am based at. The activity tracker has not changed my actual routines - but has made me aware of the level of activity that I have taken. So in that way I suppose, it is quite positive.

Movie: Mad Max: Fury Road

I remember bits and pieces of the Mad Max series - although Tina Turner in Beyond the Thunderdome sticks out the most. This is quite different - in fact, Mad Max is not really the main star of Fury Road; but rather Charlize Theron's Imperator Furiosa puts in the commanding performance as the hero. 

The cinematography is stunning, the stunts are stunning, the sound track is perfect - and Charlize Theron puts in a really great performance. It is a great action movie and great fun.

30 May 2015


The views from the top are stunning, especially on a clear day. Unfortunately, there's not much more to say about the hike up to the top - the rest of the scenery is rather drab, and the hike itself is not very exciting. It is basically up and down, and although it's a steep climb, it's not much of a challenge if you are not unfit. In terms of logistics, secure parking is available at the start at the Risski Estate; and the trail is relatively well marked and maintained. Reservations are required, and the minimum group number is 6; although for us, there was no one there to check either the permits or the group number. See the Footprint page for more details.